MELBOURNE, Australia - After coming through qualifying to reach the final in last week's ASB Classic, Bianca Andreescu admitted that she was understandably fatigued after a breakthrough tournament in which she had contested eight matches - including stunning upsets of Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams.
The Canadian was overlooked for an Australian Open main draw wildcard despite her heroics - but showed no sign of flagging in the qualifying competition, reaching her second Grand Slam main draw when No.26 seed Tereza Smitkova was forced to retire in the final round while trailing 6-0, 4-1.
Andreescu, who made her Slam debut at Wimbledon 2017 but lost in the final round of qualifying at Roland Garros and Wimbledon last year, has benefited from an ailing opponent twice this week, with first-round rival Katie Swan also retiring due to a muscle spasm after losing the first set. The 18-year-old World No.107 has been drawn against 16-year-old American wildcard Whitney Osuigwe in the main draw.
Another teenage phenomenon joining Andreescu was Wimbledon junior champion and World No.178 Iga Swiatek. The 17-year-old Pole, who has received no WTA-level wildcards in her career to date, only competed in her first WTA qualifying event last week in Auckland, reaching the final round. In her maiden Slam campaign, Swiatek went one better, striking 27 winners (taking her week's total to 96) in one hour and 12 minutes to defeat Danielle Lao 6-1, 6-3.
Former Vanderbilt University college tennis star Astra Sharma, who put her medical degree on hold last year to pursue a pro career, caused the biggest upset of the week when she ousted No.1 seed Vera Zvonareva in the first round. The 23-year-old has backed that up in dramatic style, saving three match points against No.25 seed Irina Khromacheva to triumph in a two-hour, 46-minute battle and qualify for her first Grand Slam main draw 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6[12-10].
There was success, too, for a pair of young Russians who have started 2019 in blazing form. 21-year-old Veronika Kudermetova made her third career WTA quarterfinal in Shenzhen last week and today overcame Tereza Martincova 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anna Kalinskaya has started the year with an eight-match winning streak. The champion at last week's Playford ITF W25 event, the 20-year-old has qualified in Melbourne for the second straight year with a 7-6(3), 6-3 defeat of Antonia Lottner. So far in 2019, Kalinskaya has dropped just one set - to Maryna Zanevska in the Playford quarterfinals.
Another young Russian has overcome a slump to get back on track this week. After a breakthrough 2017, Natalia Vikhlyantseva slumped from No.54 to No.134 over the course of 2018, and arrived in Melbourne on a four-match losing streak - but a 7-5, 6-3 win over former World No.46 Danka Kovinic has seen the 21-year-old into the main draw.
Comebacks are also firmly on for former World No.30 Misaki Doi and 2017 Seoul finalist Beatriz Haddad Maia. The Japanese player had slumped as low as No.326 last June, enduring a 14-month winless drought at WTA level, but has been bouncing back in recent months - and a 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Olga Govortsova, the Belarusian returning from maternity leave, has sealed Doi's first Slam main draw appearance since the 2017 US Open.
Brazil's Haddad Maia impressed with her power during her breakthrough season in 2017, but the 22-year-old's career has been wracked by sundry injuries so far - and she fell out of the Top 200 following a back injury that kept her sidelined for three months last summer. Now ranked World No.176, Haddad Maia has navigated qualifying without dropping a set, defeating No.16 seed Jennifer Brady 6-3, 6-4 in today's final round.
The Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova has set up an intriguing first-round clash in the main draw after beating Jamie Loeb 6-4, 6-1. Muchova turned heads at the US Open when she shocked Garbiñe Muguruza in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 upset characterized by brilliant touch and shotmaking; having now qualified for her second consecutive major, the 22-year-old now has a shot at another Top 10 scalp in compatriot and No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova.
Seeds Zhu Lin and Varvara Lepchenko came back from the brink to make the main draw today. Italy's Martina Trevisan served for the match twice against No.11 seed Zhu, but the Chinese player survived 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1; while Lepchenko, trailing American compatriot Christina McHale 5-7, 3-5, promptly reeled off nine consecutive points and eventually came through 5-7, 7-5, 7-6[10-3].
Rounding out this year's Australian Open qualifiers are the in-form Briton Harriet Dart, who qualified and reached the second round of Brisbane last week and who came from a set down to defeat No.10 seed Ivana Jorovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 today; 2015 Roland Garros junior champion Paula Badosa Gibert, who prevented 16-year-old Marta Kostyuk from repeating last year's eye-catching third-round run by saving three set points in the opening set en route to a 7-6(6), 6-3 win; France's Jessika Ponchet, who turned heads with her idiosyncratic game last year and who defeated wildcard Naiktha Bains 6-1, 7-5; No.3 seed Viktorija Golubic, who won a battle of former Top 100 players 6-3, 7-6(3) over No.18 seed Nicole Gibbs; and Belgium's Ysaline Bonaventure, who headed into her maiden Slam draw 6-4, 6-3 over Richel Hogenkamp.
2019 AUSTRALIAN OPEN QUALIFIERS' MAIN DRAW PLACEMENT
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) vs Sofia Kenin (USA)
Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) vs Varvara Lepchenko (USA)
Iga Swiatek (POL) vs Ana Bogdan (ROU)
Misaki Doi (JPN) vs Madison Brengle (USA)
Karolina Muchova (CZE) vs  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Bianca Andreescu (CAN) vs [WC] Whitney Osuigwe (USA)
Zhu Lin (CHN) vs Margarita Gasparyan (RUS)
Viktorija Golubic (SUI) vs  Elina Svitolina (UKR)
Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) vs  Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Astra Sharma (AUS) vs [WC] Priscilla Hon (AUS)
Harriet Dart (GBR) vs  Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) vs Sachia Vickery (USA)
Jessika Ponchet (FRA) vs  Caroline Garcia (FRA)
Paula Badosa Gibert (ESP) vs [WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS)
Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) vs Bernarda Pera (USA)